I was a very lucky child. I lived with my granny all through my childhood. She had her own granny flat with a separate entrance but an interconnecting door from our dining room – and later, after the obligatory 1980s extension – from the conservatory. But that door was always open… well, almost always. We were not allowed to disturb her when Alistair Cook’s Letter From America was on the radio… nor were we allowed to interrupt her weekly Scrabble match with my grandma, who lived round the corner.
I’d run in there when I was cheerful and wanted someone to chatter to, when I was bored and needed entertainment and when I was angry or upset and needed someone who would smile and give me a hug. As well as the frequent impromptu visits, from the time I started school aged 5, I would have a daily designated 30-minute ‘turn’ with Granny. This time was sacred. She would be completely available to me and nobody else was permitted entry during this time.
Granny having a wonderful time on her 96th birthday
Grandma & Granny (r)
Sometimes we’d talk or paint, but most of the time we’d play games. She taught me clapping games, card games, pen and paper games, dice games, word games and board games. I would often play games with the rest of the family, usually at the weekend, but I played daily games with my granny. I was a fractious child. I didn’t sleep well. I was constantly tired and very moody. But Granny, and the games, were a haven to escape to. She was a wonderful distraction and a soothing balm. I still play most of the games she taught me today.
I wanted to create a list of all the games I can remember. (I may add to the list!) Please note, these are the names we called them, rather than their official names in some cases. Here goes:
Pen and paper games
Crosswords: Fill in a 5×5 grid with letters making as many words as you can.
Consequences: Write part of a story, fold the paper down, pass it to the next person to continue. [BOY] met [GIRL] at [PLACE]… etc (very gender-conforming!)
Picture consequences: As above, with parts of the body. [HEAD] neck leads to [TORSO] …etc.
Town and Country: Pick 8 categories and a random letter. Write down an answer in each category of that letter.
Boxes: Draw a grid of dots. Players alternate to draw lines connecting dots aiming to create the most boxes.
Hangman: Choose a word which the other player guesses by asking about specific letters.
Granny circa 1985 (aged 83)
Spoken word games
Alphabet: Take turns naming an item from a category in every letter in the alphabet.
Last letter first: Say a word from a category. The other player says a word from the same category starting with the last letter of your word… etc.
I went to the shop and I bought: Add items to the shopping list, each time recalling all other items on the list.
Don’t finish the word: Each player adds a letter to a growing word. If you end the word or if you can’t name a word when challenged, you lose.
Multi-player card games
Beggar your neighbour: Two players flip cards alternately until a court card is played which forces the other player to play several until you win cards. Player with the whole pack wins.
Go Boom: Try to get rid of your hand by playing cards of the same rank or suit. Don’t forget to shout ‘Go Boom’, when you’ve one card left.
Knockout Whist: Trick-taking game where players with no tricks are eliminated.
Clock patience: A game of luck with 13 piles in the face of a clock.
Demon: Build cards on foundations from the rank you flip over for the first foundation.
Next door or over two: Flip cards and place them on cards of the same rank or suit that are next door or over two. Aim to get to one pile.
Spaces: Place all 52 cards out on the table in 4 rows of 13. Aim to move the cards so cards of each suit are in one row in ascending rank order.
Solitaire: Jump marbles over others to capture them. Try to get just one marble remaining.
Board games & other games
Lotto: Bingo, basically.
Tiddlywinks: Get counters into an area (the counter pot lid in our case) using other counters to make them jump.
Tell me: Flip a card showing a category, spin the spinner to get a letter. Name an item from that category starting with the letter.
Kim’s game: Put items on a tray and memorise them. Remove one item and other players work out what the removed item is. (Not great with two!)
Granny died in 2005 when she was 103. She got to meet two of her great-grandchildren. Here she is with Alfie (now 18) when he was a newborn. I’m so glad they got to meet each other. They would have been friends.
What games did you learn when you were a child and have you passed them on? Comment with your favourite below.